CHAPEL HILL Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that disruption of the circadian clock the internal time-keeping mechanism that keeps the body running on a 24-hour cycle can slow the progression of cancer.
The study disputes some of the most recent research in the field indicating that alteration of this daily cycle predisposes humans and mice to cancer. The UNC researchers found that genetically altering one of four essential "clock" genes actually suppressed cancer growth in a mouse model commonly used to investigate cancer. The findings could enable clinicians to reset the internal clock of each cancer cell to render it more vulnerable to attack with chemotherapeutic drugs.
"Adjusting the clock in this way could certainly be a new target for cancer treatment," said senior study author Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine. Sancar is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Turkish Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
"Our study indicates that interfering with the function of these clock genes in cancer tissue may be an effective way to kill cancer cells and could be a way to improve upon traditional chemotherapy," Sancar said. His findings appear February 2, 2009 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous research has shown that the disruption of the body's natural circadian rhythms affects people's health. One of the largest epidemiological studies ever performed, the Nurses' Health Study, found that nurses who worked the night shift had a higher incidence of breast cancer than those who worked days. Another study of flight attendants whose internal biological clocks had been wrecked by travel on transatlantic flights produced similar find
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University of North Carolina School of Medicine